The City of Wrangell is considering a mandatory quarantine for everyone arriving in the island town.
Smaller communities in Alaska are banning travel to try and keep out COVID-19. Hoonah is letting no one in, even members of its own community. Kake will have no one coming in or out of its 600-person community.
That’s because the state gave smaller, isolated towns with limited medical facilities the right to create stricter measures. With a population of 2,500, Wrangell may be the largest town to enact this sort of measure.
At a meeting Monday evening, the Wrangell Assembly was set to vote on a mandatory 14-day quarantine for most people arriving from out of town.
The state requires those coming to Alaska from the Lower 48 to quarantine for 14 days. Wrangell is looking to implement the same measure, but for intrastate travel.
The assembly came to a stalemate when it considered how this would impact its most important local industry: commercial fishermen and processors. The state has exempted these workers as critical infrastructure — provided employers file a plan on how they’ll keep workers from spreading COVID-19 between communities.
City Manager Lisa Von Bargen wants to see those assurances in writing.
“There’s nothing to keep them from coming into our community. With the exception of us being able to ask for a locally approved plan,” she says.
Since the state requested these plans, these businesses have scrambled to come up with something the state would sign off on.
Anyone involved in fisheries is going through this process. Assembly Member Julie Decker knows this, she’s a fishing industry advocate.
“I want people to be fully aware this has a potential to be pretty messy,” she says.
The red tape is potentially burdensome, not just on those submitting the plans, but the state agencies reviewing them.
Decker says the industry wants to mitigate risk, saying “peer pressure” within the fleet goes a long way. But it’s unclear how another measure will be enforced. And what criteria the city is looking for.
“That being said it also needs to be effective, seen as reasonable, and fair,” Decker says.
The assembly agreed. It’s looking to hear more from the fishing community at a meeting Tuesday. City staff plan to come back with details on how this would be enforced at the docks.
And one of the largest employers of seasonal, outside workers are the fish processors. One plant isn’t working this summer. But Sea Level’s Zimovia Highway plant is expected to submits its plans to the city.
Sea Level’s corporate office in Oregon did not respond to KSTK’s questions regarding how many workers it plans to bring into town this season. The local plant manager previously told the Wrangell Assembly that the plan would not bring in any workers before May 1.
Wrangell remains free of any positive cases of coronavirus – as of Monday evening. And city officials say they hope to keep it that way.
Wrangell’s city assembly is scheduled to review the proposed quarantine rule at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.